MOJ itself to include NGOs on “foreign agents” list?
The Ministry of Justice may get the right to independently include “foreign agents” on its register
According to Izvestia, the Russian Government is preparing amendments to the law on NGOs. These proposed changes could result in the Justice Ministry having the right, if needs be, to independently include NGOs on the list of “foreign agents”.
A Government source explained that “it was necessary to include all bodies that, in the view of the Prosecutor-General’s office, receive foreign funding and involve themselves in political actions. “There is a law on NGOs but it hasn’t been fully implemented thus far.”
The Justice Ministry itself will take a view on whether an NGO is involved in political activities, and, as part of the process, will submit evidence of foreign funding to the Prosecutor-General’s office, according to the source.
There’s currently only one organisation listed on the “foreign agents” register on the Ministry’s website, namely the NGO partnership “Co-operation on the Growth of Competition in the Commonwealth of Independent States.”
The leader of the All-Russian Civic Movement “For Human Rights”, Lev Ponomarev, believes that the Government’s proposals contradict the recent decision taken by the Constitutional Court. The Court’s view is that the “foreign agents” law is not in breach of the Russian Constitution. The Court drew particular attention to the fact that this law complies with well-established procedures for setting up a list of “foreign agents” on the Justice Ministry’s website and so does not deny legal defence rights to NGOs.
Ponomarev also believes that the question of whether these amendments are accepted depends very much on who submits them. Should this be the Russian Government, then there’s every chance they will be approved. In that event, human rights organisations could end up going to the wall.
Lyudmilla Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, believes that “Our Duma are realists” so it’s impossible to think of any outcome other than these amendments being accepted. “I think it’s because the original idea that we go and register ourselves failed.” If the amendments are accepted, the NGOs will go to court, she added.
Commenting on these proposals on his Facebook page, Pavel Chikov, head of the International Association of Human Rights “Agora” said that the Justice Ministry was unlikely to go down this route. Should the amendments go through, then the differences between the Prosecutor-General’s office and the Justice Ministry, which was initially critical of the “foreign agents” law, will only intensify.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling on the “foreign agents” law includes a dissenting opinion from Justice Vladimir Yaroslavtsev that stated that disputed “statutes” when taken together (as opposed to in isolation) in a regulatory legal system do not comply with the Russian Constitution.
Author: Georgi Ivanushkin
(For more info on the dissenting opinion from Justice Yaroslavtsev mentioned in the last paragraph, go to